Republicans at the state level of government are prioritizing maintaining their own power over any commitment to representative democracy just as much as their fellow party members in Washington DC have been.
The GOP has been remarkably adept at winning state elections during the past couple of decades, and they have proceeded to use the levers of power they control in state legislatures to gerrymander electoral districts to ensure their hold on majorities in the states where they control all the branches of local government.
While courts have finally begun to reverse the manipulated majority-ensuring districts to more accurately reflect the percentages of people voting statewide for each party and level the laying field for opposition candidates, the Republicans have continued to use other tactics to unethically maintain their electoral advantages, including voter suppression moves like limiting or eliminating early voting, closing polling places in heavily Democratic areas — making for more inconvenient travel to the ballot box and longer lines once people arrive there — and refusing to replace unsecured electronic voting machines with unhackable hand-marked paper ballots.
The political sentiment over Republican policies at the state level has begun to change during the Trump era, following the disastrous proof of the failure of the GOP’s mantra of small government — and even smaller taxes — in states like Kansas where the Republicans’ experiment with supply-side, trickle-down financial policy failed so miserably that it’s a wonder that it didn’t permanently put a stake through the heart of that public-resource-sucking concept.
It turns out that voters actually want their kids’ schools to be funded, their public services departments paid, and their roads paved.
Still, as Democrats have begun to oust Republican governors from states that had devolved into single party-rule, GOP-controlled legislatures have found it difficult to abandon their legacy of dirty politics.
After Governor Scott Walker was ousted in Wisconsin, the legislature tried to strip powers away from his Democratic replacement. A similar scenario played out in Michigan and North Carolina, as well.
Now, after Governor Matt Bevin spectacularly failed to leverage a strong endorsement from Donald Trump into a victory in the Kentucky governor’s race, Republicans in the bluegrass state are trying again to neuter the powers of the Democrat who defeated him.
In this case, the GOP-controlled legislature is trying to take away the power of incoming Governor Andy Beshear to appoint the state Secretary of Transportation by shifting power to a “citizen board nominated by influential business and government groups,” according to an article on the website of Louisville’s WDRB.
The move would also move control of Kentucky’s two-year road budget from the state’s executive branch to the board and require the Transportation Secretary to become the only state cabinet member to require confirmation by the state senate.
With the defeated Bevin still serving as the lame-duck governor of the state, the legislative proposal can be pushed through while Republicans still control the entire state government.
It’s shameful that the Republicans can’t accept a graceful defeat and insist upon clinging to power to thwart the will of voters in their state. Perhaps it’s time for Democrats to play the same long game on the local level that the GOP did to become such a force in the nation’s statehouses. Unless they do, we can just expect more devious schemes from power-hungry republicans intent on thwarting progressive agendas.
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Original reporting by Marcus Green at WRDB.com.